Chertanovo Moscow v Alaniya, Sunday 30th August 2020, 3pm

After a few months of there being no football or of me having little interest in attending it’s starting to get back towards normal. Normal in that I’ve been checking the fixtures and working out what games it might be possible for me to get to. In addition to the language barrier and ever-present frustration caused by a lack of clarity on the actual venue for the fixture, the restrictions related to the coronavirus have reduced capacities and, it appears, made advance ticket purchases a necessity.

Chertanovo has one of the better websites and it explained in English that whilst they hadn’t previously charged an admission fee for their second-tier Russian National League matches, the requirements for social distancing had resulted in them making games ticket only and as the tickets were issued through an agency, they would have to be paid for. Fair enough I thought and with a lot less palaver than I’d had with the CSKA tickets a week earlier I bought and printed a two-hundred and twenty-ruble ticket for section B7, the only section available.

The venue for the game was the Luzhniki Sports Complex. It’s the park where the 1980 Olympic Stadium is located, although I understand that the stadium had been re-built since then and no longer features a running track. If Seb Coe had attended Chelsea’s Champions League Final defeat against Man United and tried to imagine himself powering down the home straight he’d have had to ignore the rows of seating that presumably cover where the track had been.

On checking how to get to the game I discovered that Luzhniki is only around six miles from my flat and so that made it within walking distance. I prefer to get around on foot if I can as you see a lot more that way. On setting off the first part of the route was easy to follow as I’d done it before on a visit to the Darwin Museum earlier in the year. The main attraction of that museum is bad taxidermy and if that is one of your niche interests then I can recommend a visit.

Further along the route took me through a park that has a small football ground in that I noted for future games and a large chess board that nobody had much interest in. Russia has seemed to dominate the chess world for as long as I’ve been aware of the game and so I’d have though that it would have been a popular attraction. Maybe Covid has caused it to be moth-balled for a while.

As I neared the river that provides a boundary to the complex the path took me through some woods. I spotted a well-worn, but un-marked path that looked like a short-cut. As invariably happens it didn’t work out exactly as I’d planned with the trail petering out and me having to scramble down a steep and muddy embankment, grabbing on to tree trunks and branches to stop me going arse over tit.

Once at the bottom I re-joined the tracks that I should never have left and crossed the river by way of a walkway attached to the outside of the metro line. The river was busy with tour boats, one of them holding some sort of boom-boom-boom party where all the attendees were dancing in a huddle and waving their arms in the air. The noise was so loud that, if they were so inclined, the passengers on any of the other boats within a couple of hundred yards could have partied along as well.

Once over the river I was soon inside the complex. It had taken me a little longer than I’d anticipated but there were still twenty minutes to kick-off. I checked a map of the area and realized that in addition to the main stadium there was also a North Sports Centre, a South Sports Centre, a Palace of Sports and a Sports Camp. I doubted that the game would be in the main Olympic Stadium as the website had mentioned an overall capacity for the venue as being around eighteen hundred seats and so I asked a security guard if he could match the venue information on my ticket with the map of the park.

As expected he had little idea, but was at least able to orientate our position with the map and send me off in the direction of the South Sports Centre. Five minutes later I was able to rule that location out and I passed the main stadium on my way to the next option of the North Sports Centre.

There was nothing doing at the North Sports Centre where I was joined by a woman and her small son who were also hoping to attend the game. We spoke little of each other’s languages, but I was able to communicate that I’d already checked the South Centre and so together we headed for the next stop, the Palace of Sport.

Once again we drew a blank, but as we passed the kick-off time of 3pm we heard drumming and shouting. We followed the noise to the Sports Camp where it was clear that a game had started. Unfortunately, the six minute delay in getting in turned into one of twenty minutes as there was no way through a perimeter fence and we had to detour out of the park to the entrance gate.

Getting through the gate followed a similar pattern to last week’s game. My ticket was scanned and I passed though a metal detector. I was instructed to put on my gloves and, in an extra precaution, I had my temperature taken. I often get my temperature taken at work and it is usually indicative, at best, of hypothermia setting in, or at worst of me having been dead for an hour. I wasn’t overly worried therefore that the exertion of getting to the ground might have warmed me up to the extent that I’d be considered a Covid risk. Sure enough, I was fine.

It was another couple of minutes from the gate to reach the ground and I was directed to my right, along a series of small five row stands on the side of the ground opposite the tunnel. To my left was a single stand for home supporters that housed the drum that had guided me in. I should have thanked the fella really.

My section was at the end of the row, beyond the goal line and with the need to peer through two fences if I wanted to see the near goalmouth. What do you expect for two quid? It was also the away section, with every block bar that first one allocated to the Alaniya supporters. I’d guess that around a third of the 1800 seats had been sold with the away allocation extending to a large section of the main stand too.

Whilst Chertanovo were in all blue and Alaniya in all white, most of the visiting fans were togged out in what I assumed to be their team’s home kit, a Melchester Rovers inspired red and yellow striped effort.

My delayed arrival had caused me to miss the opening goal, a penalty from Alaniya, or as their fans stretched it out in their chants “Al-Are-Knee-Arrgh”. A second followed soon enough though, a daisy cutter from Butaev that passed through a crowd of players and left the home goalie leaden footed.

Alaniya thought they were due a second penalty just before half-time but despite (from around a hundred and fifty yards away) it looking nailed on to me, the ref instead booked the striker. I wondered if he had had his doubts about his first award and was trying to make amends.

In the second half a different away striker received a booking for diving in the box. On this one I had no idea as to whether it was a penalty or not, the obscuring of my view by two fences meant that I wasn’t really in a position to decide. It seemed clear though that Alaniya wouldn’t be getting a second penalty unless limbs were severed.

The lack of spot-kicks stopped being an issue when the visitors extended their lead with a clever passing move that drew the keeper and enabled Malogan to tap into an empty net in the way that you would do in a five-a-side game.

In the closing stages it just seemed a question of how many more the visitors would extend their lead by. Gurtsiev shrugged off the last defender and in a one-on-one looked certain to make it four only for the home goalie who sported the sort of top-knot that should only be seen in a Sumo-ring to deflect it around the post.

In an even worse miss, Khabalov must have beaten three or four defenders, some of them twice, all in order to give Malogan an even easier tap-in from a yard out. The poor bloke waved a leg at it and missed the ball completely bringing laughter from the fans around me. I suppose you can do that when the game is won.

Tags: , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: